After more than three years of debate, Belgium is unlikely to ban “meaty” labels from vegan foods before the upcoming federal election, the government has announced.
Farmers groups had called for a ban on vegan products using names of animal products on their labels. However, agreement could not be reached that traditionally “meaty” terms might mislead consumers.
Fien Louwagie, Communications Manager at food awareness group ProVeg Belgium, told Plant Based News: “Whilst the process for developing the guideline has not officially changed, we believe it is unlikely to get any further before the next election.”
Vegan steaks do not confuse consumers
The government established a working group in 2020 to determine whether labels like “vegan steak” could mislead consumers.
The process brought together an array of meat-industry bodies. These included the General Farmers’ Syndicate, the Federation of Meat Producers, Farmers’ Union, and the Union of Butchers. Food awareness organization ProVeg also had a seat at the table.
While industry representatives argued for a ban, there has not been consensus that “meaty” labels risk serious confusion.
Economy Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne conceded that “there is still great dissonance among the various stakeholders,” according to Nieuwsblad.
Elections are due to be held in Belgium in June this year. It is unclear what will happen with the working group under a new administration.
Louwagie added: “We hope that, post-election, the new Government acknowledges that consumers are simply not confused by plant-based foods carrying ‘meaty’ names and abandons the development of the guidelines altogether.”
Belgium joins Switzerland in bucking European trend
Despite lower demand for meat, some of the continent’s governments are pushing back against the rise of plant-based alternatives. Belgium is not the only country where “meaty” labels are sparking debate.
In September 2023, the French government submitted a draft decree to ban 21 names, including “steak” and “ham,” from vegan products made and sold in France. Similarly, the Polish Ministry of Agriculture published a draft decree in December that could ban “meaty” words from plant-based labels.
In contrast, a Swiss court ruled in January 2023 that “meaty” labels were not deceptive to consumers.
Debates are ongoing in the European Union over plans to update the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Pro-vegan groups argue that CAP’s ties to the meat, fish, and dairy industries should be weakened.